On the day of her birth, cookbook writer Madhur Jaffrey entered the world, opened her eyes and tasted an ancient food. As was the tradition in her family, her grandmother came to the house and used honey to write "Om," which means "I am," on Jaffrey's tongue. Even her name is associated with an ancient food: Madhur means "sweet as honey," as if she were destined to have a life of flavor.
The earliest taste she can remember is reflected in the title of her new memoir, Climbing the Mango Trees. Jaffrey recalls climbing the trees and eating mangoes "with salt and pepper and cumin and red chili powder."
In her memoir, Jaffrey describes ephemeral foods that appear only during certain seasons. She chronicles such delicacies as "monsoon mushrooms," which she says have "a slithery flavor and texture," and "sucking mangoes," chilled in a mountain stream, that the children enjoyed on family trips to the Himalayas.